S./The Bearer of STATE - a book by Karin Arink

They drive for hours, criss-crossing through the city. As well as he can, the driver follows the Bearer’s instructions. The Captain and Irene Delwin have fallen asleep against each other. Jan is fighting to stay awake opposite Her Grace. One Guard is keeping himself awake, another is asleep in the other corner of the limo, 2 more follow on ‘Bikes.

Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 11 hours, 44 minutes and

Lying on her back, S. keeps track of an elusive and erratically moving strand of information. Dreams flashing by in the Captain and Irene’s minds, the lascivious thoughts of the Guard as he watches them, Jan trying not to think of strong calves kicking away the sheets, the driver humming the lyrics of a song on the radio, soft bioLeather and hardened steel and transparent lacquer encasing them, the data whispering in the night... So much data, and so close...
She still cannot move her body shell, but that is OK.
She is open to everything, yet inert.
She is an object, a receptacle, a vessel for STATE. All channels are accessible, she can tune into all. In the distance, Martin is again fuming about the Bearer’s prolonged absence. Mc Kinsey is worried about the rise of a new Church of STATE, the Second Calling. Mrs. Grezner is at home, playing her piano with a passion no one at the office would guess of her, changing a romantic melody into a pounding tempest with an attractive energy. Schneider is working late on a coat for someone important, whose name STATE does not register now. Johan Delaware is asleep, dreaming his former DG erupts into anger, his muscles twitch. Playing with the registers, different soundscapes of thought are present in STATE, composite and grinding audio waves slowly shifting into balance and away. But one kind of information is still missing. Anything related to Matil.
STATE has located one of the names. Feyman can wait. Matil can wait. First: Wertheim.
In the earth, sifting through layers of old information, STATE has found some references to him: Artur Wertheim. Dr. A. Wertheim. A scientist, whose views had opposed Professor M. de Parry’s. Not many of his dissertations have survived, being banished as obscure and unscientific shortly after they were published. A violent debate had ensued, resulting in Dr. Wertheim’s expulsion from most scientific forums as Professor de Parry had used all his powers to bring Dr. Wertheim in discredit, helped considerably by his close ties to the President. When Dr. Wertheim continued to refuse to renounce his views, he was thrown in prison and tortured for many years. He came out a cripple, his career destroyed.
STATE could almost find no trace of him anywhere, no current address, no taxes paid, no bank account, no telephone connections, nothing. But he is still alive. STATE catches glimpses of his presence, and S. directs the limo towards them.

> We, the People, were fooled by the corrupt Power. But now we see her real nature. We will never be blinded again! [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

The driver has to force his eyes to stay open. He listens closely to Her Grace’s instructions, follows them up even if they have to go against traffic signs. ‘This is the limo of STATE after all!’ At one point, the Bearer had issued a short command: “Sleep!” and, leaving the motor on, he had slept behind the steering wheel, a short but oddly deep sleep, of which he awoke refreshed. Still, they are driving around. He cannot help but notice that Her Grace’s instructions are contradictory, but he knows this remark is uncalled for. The limo makes detour after detour.

Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 18 hours, 28 minutes and

Here. The human STATE looks for is here.

Finally, the Bearer orders the driver to halt. They are somewhere near the riverside. The huge Bridge looms a bit further ahead, but the limo cannot approach its foundations. It is near daybreak, and in the limo everybody stirs awake. The Bearer opens her mouth to speak, but can hardly manage to. Quickly, Doctor Jan offers her some water.

Not everybody takes kindly to telepathic communication, and Jan is one, fighting it from the start, whereas for instance Irene reacts very naturally.

“Jan,” the Bearer says softly, ”Dr. Wertheim is under the bridge. Old, no legs. He has the information on STATE we need. Go and ask him to come, respectfully!”
Jan inclines his head and leaves the warm limo, pulling his coat around him against the cold and damp morning air. Briskly, he walks up to the Bridge. Some shapeless lumps, homeless people huddled up against the cold. Trying to look casual, he walks from the one to the other, wondering who exactly he is looking for.
“Whaddayawant? You police or what? Go snoop somewhere else, you,” one of the huddled men snarls.
Jan tries to respond as naturally as he can: “I am looking for Dr. Wertheim,”
“HA! HAHAHAHAHAHA! Like we hold med consult here, under the bridge, and that at what is it, five in the morning! You must be outta ya mind! You sick or drunk, or what!? HA!
Or you wanna be made sick, huh? Come here, then... Come!”
Jan pulls back but he does not give up. ‘I am on a mission for the Bearer of STATE...’ Turning around, he makes a slightly bigger circle, towards the smaller arches that sink almost into the muddy soil. Some elderly homeless, apparently there for some time already, have knocked up some rough shelters out of cardboard plastic and blankets. It is very still, but Jan senses the inquietude. The men are awake, peeking at him through slits in the shelters. ‘I should get out of here... No... I have to find this Wertheim...’ He walks as slowly as he dares, no clue as to how to find the doctor here.
“Shssssh…” Someone beckons him from one of the shadows. “Sssh… wha’d I gesht when I shtell zhe nishe zhentleman?” a man without teeth whispers, his rotten breath making it hard to lean over and catch what he is saying. Jan takes all coins he finds in his pocket, and shows them to the man, whose eyes widen. “Sssh, don’sht shtell who shtold you… Walk awaysh and make anosher shircle, shthen shtop at zhe lasht shelsher, shtere… Give me isht!”
Under cover of his coat, Jan gives the money. As casually as he can, he walks another circle, stopping here and there, as if asking or checking. All homeless are awake now, and he can sense their animosity rising. He stops at the last shelter. It looks more discarded than the others, and half open, like it is no longer used. Doctor Jan pauses, uncertain as to how to proceed. Then, a sudden movement, and before he knows, a man comes belting out of the shelter, on his hands and the stumps of his knees. “The dirty rat told you, I see! I will have his supper for that, yes I will, and more too if I set my mind to it! What do you come here for, calling this old name, huh? Nobody of that name exists anymore! Come on! What do you think you’re doing?” The man has white hair and piercing blue eyes, a bit watery. His cheeks are very red, maybe too much drink, maybe the cold. There is something superficially cheerful in his aspect, but he is also very suspicious and angry.
Jan says: “Sir, Doctor, forgive me… We need your help… I can explain, if you would just come with me,”
“No fucking WAY I will come with a wheezing terrier dog like you! I can see the soldier stink coming out of all your nice clothes and all! … Did you really think I’d come and follow you out like a good boy!? Come on! I know better than that.”
Jan wishes he could just walk away from the smelly and aggressive man. He sighs. “Doctor, please…”
“Wheez, wheez! I don’t think so! I do not trust you, get it? I’m on my ground here and I am not gonna let myself be taken away lightly, you hear!?” The man draws back, to his shelter. Jan approaches one step, and persists: “But, Sir, Doctor, that is not at all what I” With one swift movement, the man jumps and pushes him over, pressing a stick against his windpipe. He is very strong and smells of alcohol. Jan swallows but again tries to speak, to ask. His throat hurts and he cannot make a sound.
“Don’t give up then, do you?” The man squints his eyes as he looks at Jan. “But… Let me seeeeeee… You do not ask for yourself, now, do you? DO YOU? For whom, then? TELL me!”
“Ehm, if you would just…” and lamely, Jan points to the limo. The man looks at the steel limo, which just catches the first rays of sunlight and whistles, then pushes Jan harder into the ground. “No! Who is so powerful as to own such a limo? A stinking tailored limo!? Who’s the boss, then, doggy? Come on… I am no bloody FOOL! I will not walk into my death so easily! You think you can order anyone around, huh? Like your nice Mr. Boss there. Well, not me!”

The man crawls half-way back into his hiding place, glaring at him. But rubbing his throat, Jan does not give up: “B… but I will explain over there, fully, please… It is vital”
“Come on! I am not crazy! I can see them, dragging me and locking me who knows where! Well, call them to come then, those doggie guards of yours! Let them drag me to my death! I will not follow any middleman to anywhere, you hear. Or better still: tell that top-dog of yours to come and ask me nicely himself! If he dares. ALONE!”
Desperate, Jan straightens his nice coat. “I am afraid that will not be possible, sir! I am not here for some petty errand! The matter involved”
The man sneers: “Well “sir”, or what do you want me to call you? This is MY domain and you’d better get out before we kick you out, dead!”
Jan is getting very, very angry now, but, as always, he stiffens and cannot find the words to express his anger: “This is very important, sir! VERY important! You come with me NOW, or”

‘Jan…’ Jan grabs his head, a piercing headache accompanying Her Grace’s voice. ‘Come back!’ And defied, Jan does as told.

After a fierce five-minute debate, the Bearer leaves the limo, limping after Jan. The Captain and Guards also leave the limo and look after them anxiously, ready to intervene if necessary. As Jan and the Bearer approach, the old man opens the flaps of his shelter to have a better look at her. On Her Grace’s sign, Jan halts and the Bearer steps towards the old man alone. The man leans out. “Well… well, well. Look at that! That is not the President, or any of his top-dogs, as far as I can tell... Who’d have expected the terrier to bring a dirt-covered bitch!?”
“You hold your” Jan starts, but the Bearer lifts two fingers to command his silence. She stands very still, the morning light around her.
The old man shifts, and looks, and looks again. Suddenly, he hobbles out of the shelter. Pulling two crude wooden props closer, he heaves himself a little higher. The Bearer steps up to him and extends her hand to the man on stumps.
“Hmn...” Dropping the crutches, the old man stands on his stumps. Softly pressing the flesh with first one, then both his hands, he feels her hand. Then, he takes her right hand in his left hand and takes the other with his right. The Bearer allows herself to be examined quietly.

His hands are very dirty, but they have not lost their ability to discern differences in temperature, in texture, in feel. ‘Hmn... This flesh is strange, more firm than normal, but not muscular or callous. And the left hand is much colder than the right...’ He approaches slightly. Without further ado, his hand slips inside her sleeve, up her arm. His fingers follow the sinewy muscles upwards, until the dip in elbow, the hole of the scar. A small intake of breath indicates that it is still sensitive. The pompous young man moves, but again, the woman named S. indicates him to let it be. ‘She is his boss. But that scar! It cannot be...’ Werther looks her in the eyes, surprised. She remains silent. He collects his thoughts, says:
“You… you too… you were there… That can only‘ve been a… a… No, no, no. Come on! How could you get rid of the Mark? Nobody gets rid of it! Nobody! Ever! But this can only have been a scar left by... What did you do to it? Well..? And… How can a hand command the power, while it is scarred by the poison? Well..?
How come the terrier soldier obeys the convict? Hmn? What new game is this?”

Bearer of STATE for 6 months, 1 week, 0 days, 19 hours, 3 minutes and

Silent, S. looks at him.

Then, suddenly, his eyes widen. ‘No… no, no… it cannot be… What flesh feels like this..?’ He draws some breath, exhales with a whistle, draws some air again eagerly. ‘It cannot be… After all this time? No, no, it would be… Nobody has been able to, for such a long time… No, it cannot be...’ He has to know. “Eh… let me check, please, just allow me…” Dropping the arm, he approaches on his stumps, a bit closer still. He reaches forwards, very carefully. Under the cloak, his hands find STATE. He gasps. ‘There! It is there!’ “Oh! It cannot” His voice falters, turns to a whisper, fades. ‘There you are… Finally we meet again... There you are, again, out in the fresh air, where you belong! Let me touch you, yes, please allow me to… Come on... it has been soooo long… Oh! How beautiful you are…’

Under his fingers, the surface of STATE softens, and it tickles as if the man is stroking her bare belly. S. cannot help it, the body shell giggles, and she notes it is the first real giggle in her life.

Werther is overcome by emotion, as if confronted with a family member believed dead. ‘And nobody told me, nobody said it had finally happened! No-body! Come ON... I.. I cannot believe it, it has been.. it has been… how many years, wait, I cannot... not here.. Wait here! Wait…!!’ He is so excited. Then a thought crosses his mind. “And how did the young woman get it, then?” ‘They cannot have given it to her, now, can they? Is she a... marionette, then? Is he still playing it behind the scenes? It is… Is it a trap?’ He narrows his eyes and looks at her. The woman only looks at him, her face unmoving, but he suddenly hears her voice, with piercing clarity, in his head. ‘Ouch!’
‘Human! Listen. STATE killed the President 6 months ago. But Matil and his men are still trying to end STATE. No, it is not a trap.”
‘She reacts on my thoughts! Or did I speak aloud? Come on, remember... No, no. She hears my thoughts! She talks to me without speaking aloud! This... This is wonderful! She really IS the Bearer! A Bearer of STATE!’

All of a sudden, the old man spins around to the homeless who have slowly crept nearer to ogle at the strange scene. “YOU!! Back off you dirty rags! Let us be, or I will have to get out my stick! Do you not see who is here? The Bearer of STATE is here! Get away from STATE, you dirty vermin! Or someone will have to terminate you!” They disappear like rats.

> She the Filth has consumed our Power, the Power of the People, and she will be terminated. [As is the Word of Jason A. the One]

Next: Ch049